I've just spent 3 weeks in Mexico. You would think they eat a lot of really hot stuff, hold siesta with their sombreros on their faces, reclining back against some creaky tree, only to spring to life in the evening when the fiesta gets going. Then it's time for Tequila and campfires, rodeos on small horses, and maybe the odd game involving a small cactus (adults only).
Now, this picture is totally wrong.
For some reason, I felt I was hard pressed to find much that was Mexican in Mexico. Chili con Carne apparently is American, the beans they eat are of the black variety which is really not someting foreigners enjoy very much, and above all, all activity in the entire country is stifled by the most mystifying toilet paper problem: hardly any toilet at all has toilet paper. You have to bring your own. Just in case: the word is "papel sanitario". Most toilets are dismally dirty. ... And to add to your discomfort, most sewage systems can't cope with toilet paper, so you have to dump your used paper into a (too small) bin next to the toilet. Let me remind you that the climate is very hot and damp. You get the picture.

Disclamer for those who are in doubt: This is only a satirical description of how I experienced Mexico. In fact, it's a beautiful country, with people who welcomed me very warmly. However, there is a toilet paper problem: I agree, you get it in the supermarket, but I generally don't take a shit in the supermarket. I would want to find toilet paper on the toilet.
I wonder if I should take your writeup seriously. Anyway, let's us give you the benefit of doubt, and suppose that it was a joke.

On second thought, maybe some observations would be useful as a Guide to the Confused:

  1. I don't know where you have been in Mexico, but let me assure you that in Mexico City toilet paper is plentiful, sold in handy 24 roll packages at your local mall or supermarket.
  2. Indeed Mexicans everywhere eat a lot of hot stuff. Strangely enough, though, they give a higher priority to taste than to pain.
  3. the sombrero you are talking about is probably the sombrero de charro which is about as common here as, uh, a Stetson in the US: that's to say, very frequent in some places, very very rare in others.
  4. Chili con carne, just like the burrito, the taco shell, the spaghetti bolognese and the fettuccine Alfredo is a US invention, and I say this with a certain amount of satisfaction.
  5. A lot of foreigners enjoy the unspeakably exotic black beans, this most strange of pulses.

This sentence, "For some reason, I felt I was hard pressed to find much that was Mexican in Mexico", is ... priceless. It should be made into an Everything Quote.
Verily, an innocent abroad.

There was a point in my life that I ran the sales and marketing department for a manufacturing company located in Tijuana. Although we had an issue with toilet plumbing (once getting a $2000 sewer bill), we never had issues finding toilet paper. But, like many of you, I believed that the people of Mexico ate foods that we, in the United States, consider “Mexican" (although chili con carne never crossed my mind). You have no idea how depressing it was to go into a Mexican restaurant only to find that "chips and salsa" wasn't on the menu; nor were there cheesy, messy "chicken nachos" I was so looking forward to. I found, however, many great eats in Mexico that were far better than any Americanized Mexican food could ever hope to be.

One of my favorite lunch spots was a little street diner (a little shack pushed four feet back from the roadway with a few stools slid up to the bar) by the name of "Jolie's." It was run by Jolie (imagine that) who was an extremely pleasant woman with beautiful long, brown flowing hair (that I was quite jealous of), who was just a few years older than I was. She had been operating her little street diner for several years and was quite successful at it. Her place was clean, her food was outstanding, her company was friendly, and for those of us always looking for ways to eat on the cheap, perfect for $5.00. Jolie served a lunch menu that, pretty much, encompassed her restaurant's offering, consisting of a meat of choice (beef, chicken or pork) served with two (pre-chosen) side dishes (refried beans and macaroni salad (off all things)). You ordered the type of meat you wanted, told her how you wanted it grilled (burned, medium, or walking), and she would cook it right there in front of you. Her carne asada was to die for; perfectly spiced, extremely tender, and delicious. The one thing that made Jolie's my favorite of lunch haunts was the fact that she made her own hot sauce, which was more like chili oil with spices. Knowing how much I loved her hot sauce, she would bottle it up for me in used 16 oz. Alhambra water bottles and send it with me back over the border. Talk about customer service!

Another fantastic lunch spot I frequented was a street shack in La Playa, just a short 10 minutes from downtown Tijuana. Owned by the uncle of a co-worker, this place offered giant tamales of the chicken, pork, jalapeno/cheese, or raisin/pineapple varieties for a mere $.80 each. I loved these tamales so much that I would drive across the border on weekends to pick up a bag of them, knowing damn well I would have to fight two to three hours of bumper-car like traffic to get back into the US. I had a lot of patience and carried good insurance.

For meat lovers, the Machaca at the Tijuana Country Club is a do not miss. My introduction to this scrumptious delicacy was when meeting with officials from the City of Tijuana to discuss NAFTA regulations. The ambiance of this restaurant is, mind you, 70's Italian Mafia with dark brown pleather seats and red candles on every table. After picking my lunch off the menu, I was surprised to find the server bringing a large bowl of brown meat in gravy to our table, sided with a large pile of small flour tortillas. One bite was all it took to be hooked on this dish. Although I frequently lunched there, I no longer ordered off the menu, opting only for the Machaca and a side dish. I am sure the owner was always pleased to see me coming…. but hell, it was too fantastic to resist.

I will offer a word of warning to those of you that are either squeamish or on top of your eating etiquette; most food is eaten by hand. Dishes are typically shared family style but, rather than spooning portions onto your own plate, tortillas are used in place of utensils to scrape/grab/scoop the food out of the bowl. Hence, people will be dipping their tortillas (that may have already been in their mouths) into the same food as you. Although this practice is less than sanitary and a bit messy, there are fewer utensils to clean!

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